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Ankle Fracture Surgery Helps All Ages

Older patients fared well, but may need more intensive rehab, experts say

THURSDAY, March 23, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Contrary to previous findings, older patients appear to benefit from surgery aimed at repairing ankle fractures nearly as much as younger patients, a new study finds.

The surgery in question is used to repair unstable ankle fractures, involving injury to both sides of the ankle.

"Our data show those over 60 do just as well clinically as younger people one year after surgery, with few complications," study co-author Dr. Kenneth Egol, chief of orthopedic trauma service at New York University-Hospital for Joint Diseases, said in a prepared statement. "However, self-reported functional results fall below that of patients younger than 60," he added.

His team was to present the findings Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in Chicago.

The study included 313 patients younger than 60, and 56 patients age 60 and older, who all underwent surgery to repair unstable ankle fractures. For six weeks after the surgery, the patients wore a brace and were told not to put weight on the affected ankle.

Function steadily improved for all patients during the year after the surgery, the researchers said, but to a lesser degree in the older patients. This suggests that older patients may need a more intensive rehabilitation program early on in recovery in order to improve ankle function.

The bottom line: "We need to treat our elderly patients with ankle fractures the same as younger patients," Egol said. "This study gives support to the current practice of aggressive treatment for unstable ankle fractures, so patients can return to their pre-injury function."

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more about ankle fractures.

SOURCE: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, news release, March 23, 2006
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